From Here On Out

 All creative work is the result of shared knowledge and labor; originality springs forth not from the forehead of geniuses but from the ideas pooled by communities of peers.

(Nice Work If You Can Get It : Life and Labor in Precarious Times, Andrew Ross)


I have felt lost for a long time. I look toward the future and I can’t possibly imagine what I’m going to do. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever look to me when all I can see are my shortcomings. I often compare myself to other people and I find myself defining my worth through the eyes of others, through my perceptions of what I contribute to them.

I have conditioned myself to believe that my problems are my solely my own and that only I can be the one to solve them. I have a lot of trouble admitting when I need help and I feel ashamed when I can’t do everything on my own. I find myself hating that I haven’t yet figured out how to be successful. I understand that when I think like that, I am not looking at things in the right way, but this kind of belief system is one that I have come to know quite well. I have let myself be absorbed by the very thing that Andrew Ross is arguing against in the quote above.

 I want to work creatively. That means that I am seeking to add my creative labor to add to and advance ‘the ideas pooled by communities of [my] peers’. Ross’ arguments regarding the necessity of cross-class alliances for the goal of advancing “noble models of mutual aid in the service of the public good”(23) help to explain why I’ve been feeling so lost when looking toward the future: I cannot do it alone and I need to accept that. I have “learned” all my life that truly successful people are the ones who do it on their own, you know, bootstraps, the ‘self-made’ trope.

 My FYS was based around the book Lies my Teacher Told Me by James Lies_my_teacher_told_meLoewen. Through the course of the book, Loewen parses through common stories of American history and traces the ideological roots of those stories in order to reveal just how ideology reproduces itself through the information we pass along that we call “history”. History can tell us where we come from, define who we are, and what we believe in; a powerful tool for educating a society.

History can also teach us lies. The history of the American Revolution tells a story about a group of individuals looking to create a nation defined by freedom and justice for all…straight, white Christian men (with property).

Ideology is codified only after it has been rendered invisible to the naked eye. It hides and reproduces through propagating a culture specific to its own goals, a culture that will reproduce the very stories, songs, images, and practices that house ideological instructions for the individual. Traditionally accepted forms of ideology have all sought to elevate one viewpoint as central and worked to propel voices not in confluence with its doctrines to the periphery. Yet, ironically, it is only from the outside, the periphery, that one can observe, question and re-imagine current prevailing ideologies.

Ideology is only visible from outside itself. There are a variety of ways to find yourself on the edges of a periphery, especially today. It can be as innocuous as anonymously trolling through underground forums like Reddit or 4Chan (although the latter site is anything but innocuous) or as extreme as Christopher McCandless’ journey.

Illmatic comes to mind. With expert lyricism, Nas used his debut album to make visceral commentaries about his experiences living within the impoverished urban periphery of 1370898658_nasalbumBrooklyn, New York. Along with superb lyricism throughout, the album was lauded for its excellent production by fans and critics alike. Yet this aspect of the album was not only thanks to Nas. Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S, and DJ Premiere also helped produce the album. The album contains 32 different samples from 31 different artists, sampling from artists ranging from Kool & The Gang to the original Japanese cast of Hair.

My point is not about how amazing this album is because of the collaborative efforts of the creatives involved in its writing and production but about how foolish it is for me to think that the only way for me to face this world is on my own.

It’s hard for me to admit, but I do know that I need other people. I think what I fear the most is that other people wont need me. I think that’s also what scares the corporations and top-tier interests that are responsible for structuring the inequalities and ideologies that we have been investigating throughout this semester because they know that we don’t need them. We don’t need the top 1%. They need us. Society is defined by every individual and is only as strong as the weakest within it. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, but I know that I cannot do it alone. I believe every person that comes into our lives can teach us something about ourselves and it is up to us as individuals to keep our eyes open and learn all that we can from everyone we meet.

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